High school speech therapy…

Probably on level with root canal for me…well, i’ve never had one of those, so maybe a bikini wax or a lecture on advanced calculus.  Either way, it’s both painful and anxiety inducing!  But, when you are contracted to serve a contract with a school district and they tell you high school is what they need, you step up.  Funny thing is, in 2003, I stepped up for this high school once before.  The caseload was an absolute mess – kids who had graduated, moved, even one who had passed away, remained on the caseload.  At that time, my only job was to facilitate exit meetings. But now, in 2017, this district, which I love, has charged me with change.  Some dismissal, but mainly change.

I will not lie – when I looked at this caseload of 45 kids…14-19…at a high school with enrollment of nearly 3000, nausea was high.  My first week of sorting through things, I woke up multiple mornings at 3:45am, full of anxiety about how to really serve these kids.  And then it struck me.  I needed to forget EVERYTHING I knew.  All my preschool and elementary school habits needed to be put away and I needed to take a long look at what high school should look like.

High school is heavily academic.  You don’t really have “recreational” classes – they are called electives, and typically they are chosen because a student is curious and interested.  And our high school kids need to move, so don’t take PE away.  So where does speech therapy fit?  How do we enrich communication in a real and impactful way? 

This is the list I came up with and I intend to pitch to the high school team this week…

  1. Functional services – Shadow students on on job sites and community outings.  With these, using pictures and video, we can create video models of expected behaviors.  Additionally, we can create vocabulary lessons targeting these settings. (Good in any program that travels).
  2. Team teaching – this is best used during lessons where there is a heavy vocabulary component.  Could be when a classroom is reading a certain novel together.  Again, here, we extract inferences and vocabulary from the curriculum and create lessons that can allow students a more in-depth understanding (Good in both RSP and SDC).
  1. Classroom take overs – this would be cooking lessons, YouTube lessons, really anything that would compliment curriculum (Best in SDC)
  1. Thursday (this is a late start day for my campus) morning Executive function bootcamp – no more than 6 students in this group – 6 week programming to focus on development (thinking 8:30-9:15) – this is more of an intervention than an IEP service.  Teachers can recommend a participant, then that student/parents will be contacted and invited to participate. 
  1. Direct services – only when essential and indicated as beneficial to the student.

My school also has a Friday lunch program called Best Buddies, where I intend to insert myself.  And I have one student who, per his own words, needs to learn to “talk to people not at them” who loves Gaming Club, so my Thursday lunches, I will be honing my skills at MineCraft and Slime Rancher alongside him!

I know this doesn’t look or feel like elementary school speech therapy.  And I don’t want it to.  Because these are high school kids.  This is our last chance for impact before they go out into adult-ing, whatever that may look like for them.  And what good are we doing them in a speech room?  What good are we doing hiding behind closed doors for 20 minutes 25 times a year?

I am lucky.  My administrators are in favor of what I am trying to do.  I’ve already encountered resistance from some “seasoned” staff, who would like to know when I am going to start “pulling” kids.  And I anticipate resistance from some parents.  But my fingers and toes are crossed that I can do something different and that the ripples on impact will spread.  That I will be a catalyst for real change, the kind of change that makes things better.

I’d love feedback!  Do you work in a high school? Do speech services look like this?  Am I absolutely looney and setting myself up for failure?  And if you are a parent, would you support this for your child?

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